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How to Empower Young Girls in India

Young girls need holistic skilling solutions and last-mile connectivity to job markets

Published: Jun 22, 2013 06:36:34 AM IST
Updated: Jun 25, 2013 02:01:50 PM IST
How to Empower Young Girls in India
Image: Getty Images
Providing skills to girls require holistic solutions like market-linked curriculum and fi nancial literacy

On a recent visit to Hyderabad, I met Shweta, who works in the documentation centre of a TV channel. Daughter of a bus driver, she joined a training programme under the Andhra Pradesh government’s employment mission in 2006. Her annual salary has since increased from Rs 60,000 to Rs 2,00,000. Happily pregnant now, she told me, “What is best about the training and the job is it helped me get a husband who works in a private sector bank. I never dreamt of this kind of life for me back home.”

India loses $56 billion a year in earnings to adolescent pregnancy, higher-secondary school dropouts, and joblessness among young girls. An Indian School of Business study on the impact of providing skills to rural girls showed a rise in self-esteem, reduction in child marriage, and a better quality of life for their families. When women earn, they invest 90 percent of their income in families; for men it’s only 30-40 percent.

Economic empowerment of young girls is neglected in India. A study by strategic philanthropic foundation Dasra—Empowering Adolescent Girls in India—corroborates what I see on the field. There are agencies which do life skills and health training. But what seems to be missing is that step-up training they require to follow their career dreams.

At a workshop in Ranchi, organised by the Jharkhand government and the World Bank, block officers pointed out that girls who went through basic life skills and health education were asking, “What next?” In 2011, the Centre had conceived “Sabla” as a comprehensive scheme addressing the empowerment of adolescent girls through nutrition, life skills and vocational training. The model, however, requires co-ordination of various government departments (for funds) and grassroots workers etc.

India has set itself a policy target of helping skill 500 million youths by 2022 for jobs. Assuming only 40 percent of them are girls, the number still would be 200 million. Neglecting them could mean a demographic disaster. Providing skills to young girls needs holistic solutions to meet their special needs—modules which incorporate market-linked curriculum with health and life skills, flexibility in timings, financial literacy, and sensitive support mechanisms for first-generation organised sector workers. Lessons from the private sector in building gender diversity have to be included.
There is a sense of urgency for two reasons. More adolescent girls are enrolling in secondary education and need a last-mile connect to markets.
 With NREGA money flowing into rural hands, mothers aspire for a different kind of life for their daughters. We need to design and implement a National Young Girls Skilling Mission. The time is now.

Meera Shenoy is a team member of the advisor to the PM’s National Council on Skill Development. She is also Senior Advisor, UNDP. Shenoy was instrumental in designing and executing the successful AP rural development’s employment mission. The views expressed by the author are personal

(This story appears in the 28 June, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Meera Shenoy

    Maya, It is good to know that you are focussing on economic empowerment of girls. What happens to you is most common in the NGO world - project funding gets over and the good work has to continue. It is good, therefore, to plan ahead and write to funders before the project lapses. In TNadu you can perhaps approach the world bank funded Puddu valvu(New Life) and the state NRLM which was a skilling youth component. This is govt. funding with its own guidelines

    on Aug 4, 2013
  • Maya Ramachandran

    Thanks for this very interesting article. I work with a not-for-profit organisation called Siaap ( in Tamil Nadu. In our recent project with young people (15-29 years) in 13 districts of the state in rural areas, we initiated the Entry-level Employability Skills Training for young women and subsequently linked them with employment opportunities, vocational training opportunities and some of them actually went back to continuing their education as they felt more motivated after training. Results were very encouraging and we saw a tremendous change in women: increased self-esteem, greater confidence in decision making, need to seek employment or vocational training and improved negotiation skills. The project was supported by the European Union-Hivos and has come to an end as on 31st December 2012. We are in need of funding to continue the training for women and would appreciate individuals/organisations who are interested to get in touch with us. Look forward for a positive response from readers.

    on Aug 2, 2013
  • Harshvardhan

    Recent data suggests that LFPR for women in country is decreasing.Though reasons for this are under debate, it is necessary to create an enabling socio cultural framework which promotes economic empowerment of women. Unfortunately, one of the many drawbacks of Sanskritisation in BIMARU states is an inhibiting environment which holds back women going out of home to work. On the other hand, tribal societies in which women have always played a significant economic role have remained excluded from assistance. A large number of tribal girls move out of their home not only to work in near by areas but have also been migrating to far off cities in search of livelihood and survival. There is an urgent need that the skill development policies have a specific focus on tribal girls to help them acquire necessary life and technical skills to benefit from opportunities in labour market. They are the most needy one.

    on Jul 2, 2013
  • Neha Gupta

    I agree with the necessity of such kind of mission. But my apprehension is this, that in the present Skill Development programme also the drop outs are high. The system is not able to provide effective hand holding support to rural young boys, then forget about rural girls. I think that restructuring of present Skill development programme is the urgent requirement. Many private NGOs has come up with such models, which have attrition rate of 1-2% only. Of course, Gujarat and Andhra has too successful models. NYGSM will be one of the best initiative in skill development programme, but I think parallely the existing Skill Development Programmes\' redesigning also required. Manish raised a valid point,about sensitization of the whole system towards women folk. The NRLM has been launched, but I see that the actual fact women as a farmer is not been taken up. So while designing NYGSM, gender sensitisation trainings and other related programmes for implementer is must, to strengthen the route from where young girls will actually fulfill their aspirations .

    on Jul 2, 2013
  • Vineet Kumar Singh

    Working in rural / maoist affected area I find most of these thing still a paper work phenomenon. Though experience tells us that women give better results when skilled compared to their male counterpart if processes laid down are followed in practice. Now we have a promising mission like NRLM which could be fruitful if succeed to raise the motivational level of people.

    on Jul 2, 2013
  • Tapan Kumar Das

    Yes, we are also seeing a similar trend with the rural PwD youth in Andhra Pradesh. Last few batches of Youth4Jobs number of Girls joining the training centre are more then the boys.

    on Jul 1, 2013
  • Meera Shenoy

    Absolutely right manish.i must give u some recent feedback froma pilot.when the skilling agency went for mobilisation in remote areas of chattisgarh large no of girls wanted to enrol to get jobs and stand on their own feet.however the funds in this pilot were only for boys...we need to work on this challenge at all levels

    on Jul 1, 2013
  • Kumar Manish

    The ironical part is that even though we realise that other half of the population is to be brought into mainstream but still we don\'t see that happening when district plans or skill development plans are being formulated...working in the rural/naxal affected belt, I was surprised to see that annual action plans regarding skill development remain in papers....the idea must be to first of sensitise the common public and officials towards the need of giving an equal footing to womenfolk. THE CHANGE HAS TO BE FROM WITH IN TO that it simply doesnt stay in policies and guidelines !!!!!! Thanks and regards,

    on Jul 1, 2013
  • Rekha Kumari

    You are right madam, the holistic model for development of girls is yet to come. I am from Bihar where I have seen school girls being empowered and more confident to walk on road in villages when they are given Bicycle from state government. Number of girls attending schools increased tremendously and they started thinking that they are empowered and they have all right to dream for a better life. But once they finish the schooling a full stop arises there....What to do now???...There is no opportunity in village... and very few are lucky to move out of villages...It takes a mental toll on them as first we are making them dream of and then destituting them from fulfilling their dream(which off course because of lack of opportunity at village level or block level)making them worse and victim. Please do what you and we can .... and the suggested way in your article is one of the crucial solution.

    on Jun 28, 2013
  • Dr.a.jagadeesh

    I agree with your assertion,\"Economic empowerment of young girls is neglected in India. More and more avenues have to be created. Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

    on Jun 23, 2013
  • Rajesh Dua

    If some one wants to volunteer to this cause, what is the channel available?

    on Jun 23, 2013
    • Meera Shenoy

      Depending on the city you are located, there will be good organisations you can volunteer with

      on Jun 27, 2013
      • Rajesh Dua

        i AM AT GUJARAT CITY AHMEDABAD, can you suggest few? thanks anyway.

        on Jun 27, 2013
  • Raghuveer

    An eye-opener! Such articles will inform the youngsters who crib about nothing happening in terms of development in the country. In turn will inspire them to promote and participate in such activities.

    on Jun 22, 2013